Reader, have I raved enough about Blurb in the past? I think so! I spent most of 2010 creating books--seven titles in print so far and at least another half-dozen in various stages of development--and Blurb has been my print-on-demand publisher of choice. It still is, in fact, although I am heartsick over something that happened with the printing of my most recent and most important book, Mary Roslyn Kerr: A Book of Childhood Memories. And so I'm sorry to have to backpedal some regarding my previous Blurb raves.
Before creating this book about my mother, I created six books based on a number of personal blogs I've kept since 2005. I wanted to learn, before investing months of work creating a family history book, how to use Blurb's BookSmart software as well as what I could expect from Blurb in a finished product.
According to Blurb's FAQ page What types of bindings and book sizes are available?:
For you bindery aficionados, Blurb uses both "side sewn" and "perfect bound" binding options on all hardcover books. Generally, books with fewer than 120 pages will be side-sewn. Books with more than 120 pages will be perfect bound.But what about books of exactly 120 pages, I wondered. Would they get sewn bindings or perfect (i.e., glued) bindings?
I made my blog books in Blurb's 7" square format. Three of the books had 80 pages, while the other three had 120 pages. All six were made with sewn bindings. As a result, I set a limit of 120 pages for my future family history books. I am making them specifically with the intention of preserving family history for future generations, so the durability and longevity of a sewn binding is of great importance to me. My book-making dream is that my books will be handed down for generations to come, and with all their pages intact!
Because of the information noted above from Blurb's FAQ combined with my own three 120-page book experiences, I fully expected the book about my mom to be made with sewn bindings. I ordered twelve copies of it in time for Christmas giving. I'd done my research, I'd done my homework, I'd done my test run with less important books, so I was feeling pretty confident, despite the use of the weasel-word "generally" in Blurb's FAQ.
And of course you know why I'm writing about this today. When my order was delivered and I took the first copy out of the box to look at it, CRACK!!! went the binding of the book, and suddenly I was looking at an ugly glue-filled split between the last page and the end-paper.
I contacted Blurb's customer service via a link on their website. A quick response was promised, and indeed it did come within a few hours. It was essentially a scripted or form response, telling me to submit a photo of the problem, which I then did. It took longer to get their next reply, which again seemed formulaic, but offered me a credit to have my book order reprinted. I asked if there was a way I could be assured that the reprinted books would have sewn bindings, and was told there would be "a better chance" if I removed pages from the book, but that there was still no guarantee that the binding would be sewn rather than glued; however, I was assured that Blurb does guarantee the quality of their products.
To give my book the best chance, I did remove two pages, bringing the page-count down to 118 rather than 120. However, the reprinted edition also arrived with glued bindings.
Soon there came another email from Blurb, asking me to take a survey about my experience with their customer service but saying that if my issue was not resolved to my satisfaction, I should reopen my customer service ticket rather than take the survey. At that time I was too depressed about the whole thing to deal with it any further, so I put it aside until last week, when I finally pulled myself together and contacted customer service again.
In my email to them, I reviewed the issue I'd had, and asked them this:
... what I need from you today, before I write my post, is to know the following:Again the response was formulaic. It didn't add any new information in response to my first question, and did not address my second and third questions at all.
1. how Blurb decides which books will be glued and which sewn--my readers
and I would all like to increase our chances of getting the binding we want.
2. why the customer doesn't get to decide this critical issue during the
3. whether Blurb has any plans to make it an option for Blurbarians in
As a result of this experience, I've learned (or think I've learned) several things about Blurb:
- Blurb uses more than one printing company to print book orders. It seems that not all printers are created equally; some have the means to create books with side-sewn bindings and others create books with glued bindings. All of my 7" books were sent from an address in Washington, while my 8" x 10" family history book was sent to me from Missouri (both the original order and the replacement order). In my experience, the Washington printer sews, and the Missouri printer glues.
- Even in the service of customer satisfaction, which Blurb seems to want, they have no means in place to assure than any particular book order will have a sewn binding. From my experience, it seems to depend on the luck of the draw. Maybe it depends on the dimensions of the book?
- Blurb's customer service department seems to be scripted and unable to respond in a very personalized way, which left me feeling unheard. On the other hand, when I followed their complaint procedure, they readily replaced my order.
I'll be sharing some additional thoughts about Blurb in my next post.